May 24, 2019

‘I owe my life to the test’

Thanks to early detection and treatment for colon cancer, Antonio Jofre looks forward to many happy years with his family.

Antonio Jofre (far right) vacations with his wife and children in Portofino, Italy.

When Antonio Jofre walked into Kaiser Permanente in October 2016, he thought he was just getting a flu shot.

“The nurse who was giving the flu shots noticed that I had just turned 50, so she offered me the FIT (fecal immunochemical test) to screen for colon cancer. She said it would be easy to do at home,” explained Jofre, now 52. “The test was positive for blood in my stool, and I had to go in for a colonoscopy.”

Jofre was referred to gastroenterologist Theodore “TR” Levin, MD. “Within a couple of seconds of starting his procedure, [we found] cancer in the lower part of his colon,” said Dr. Levin, clinical lead of colorectal cancer screening for Kaiser Permanente in Northern California.

Jofre was quickly scheduled for surgery to remove the affected part of his colon.

Stopping cancer in its tracks

Colorectal cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society. But with regular screening, precancerous polyps can be found early and removed, thereby preventing the disease or making it easier to treat.

Kaiser Permanente is a national leader in colorectal cancer screening, with overall screening rates of 79% among Kaiser Permanente members (compared to a national average of 61%) and 88% among Medicare members (compared to a national average of 72%).

Kaiser Permanente’s achievements were recognized by the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable in 2019 with its prestigious National Achievement Award. Richard Wender, MD, chief cancer control officer for the American Cancer Society, called the colorectal cancer screening program “a model in the United States and internationally,” citing a 26% decrease in colorectal cancer cases and a 52% decrease in colorectal cancer deaths among Northern California members between 2000 and 2015.

“The most gratifying aspect of this work is the knowledge that there are parents and grandparents spending time with their families who wouldn’t have otherwise, because our physicians and staff did the hard work of improving our screening performance,” said Dr. Levin.


A life-saving approach

Kaiser Permanente’s aggressive screening program is based on guidelines from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, which recommends testing average-risk adults between the ages of 50 and 75 with a colonoscopy every 10 years or an at-home test like the FIT every year.

In Northern California alone, more than 20,000 FIT kits are mailed to members every week, and a Kaiser Permanente laboratory processes nearly 3,000 mailed-in FIT kits every day.

That system ensured timely care for Antonio Jofre. Within weeks of mailing in his FIT kit, his colon cancer was removed, and he began chemotherapy. Soon after finishing treatment, he returned to work at his auto repair shop.

“Thanks to the test, I’m doing great,” Jofre said. “I’m living a normal life, and I’m going to be able to grow old with my wife and see my children grow. I owe my life to the test.”

Learn more about Kaiser Permanente’s commitment to preventing and treating cancer.